Is virtual as real as real? Facebook and all the rest of them did not erupt and ramify because there was no thirst for them. When you’re alone, these days, you’re not alone. A large part of folks’ social lives these days is virtual. And that goes double for the folks I know who live alone. Are online friends and friendships really real? As real – and “real” means “nourishing”- as the old-fashioned, up-close kind that called for antiperspirants?

It’s easy to discount the new simply because it’s new. A bunch of Luddite skeptics said, when airplanes first appeared: “If God had wanted us to fly, He would simply have given us wings!” Well, He did. Just not at first. And, when He did, they were attached to what we call a fuselage – a name and concept which would make no sense without the wings. And so it goes. 

Imaginary friends are real for those who can imagine them. The comfort little kids derive from hugging their dear teddy bears is real; a lot like what we adults get – or clearly need and hope to get – from hugging real live dogs and cats and goats and guinea pigs. And kids and mates – who give us many crucial benefits.

This article may merely be a daffy solipsistic screed, I know. It seems to me that who and what’s “out there,” in “the real world”- people and things outside our “selves”- are critical within us as emotive stimuli – to whom we’re deeply programmed to respond, and without which it’s hard to remain sane. They constitute experience we absolutely need within our “selves” to feel alive. Where other humans are concerned, we do the same for them, of course. (For guinea pigs and goats? I’m not so sure.) Consider mass murderers over the years: so many have been loners and “incels,” to use a current term which means involuntary celibates: socially isolated weirdos.

The so-called Placebo Effect is immense. If you believe that something’s real, it’s real – simple as that! Which is to say it’s real within yourself, and can, then, have real benefits – not only psychologically – appeasing loneliness. It even helps the basic body stuff, like blood pressure, dyspepsia, E.D., and all that, which largely dictate quality of life.

At the risk of repeating myself, I’ll say this: The Placebo Effect is immense. If you believe in God, God’s real. I mean it. Really real! And that Real God can change your life. Simple as that. But, in that light, it’s pretty clear that God can’t help an atheist. There is no God for those who don’t believe. (If humans were unable to project and fantasize, the world would be a very different place.) If you believe in Santa Claus, or Tinker Bell, or Qanon, there’s comfort close at hand and you need never feel alone. But if you’re skeptical, you’re on your own.

At the risk of repeating myself, I’ll say this: The Placebo Effect is immense. Even calling it that seems a bit dismissive, since the term was coined by psychologists, who strive to be considered scientists. Over the centuries, lots of humans have rejected science because it labels and presumes to measure – i.e., address without credence or sentiment – some of the most wondrous aspects of human experience.

I’ve rarely met a human who can love as unabashedly as almost any dog I’ve ever known, yet 2/3 of the scientists will not concede that dogs feel love. To think so, most of them insist, is simply to project our human nature onto them. Likewise, someone who’s had a stirring, life-changing epiphany – like finding Lauren Boebert’s lifelike likeness in their corned beef hash – will find “scientific inquiry” into such matters rigid, dismissive and absurd.

The End. That’s all I’ve got to say.